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TWO-TIME WORLD CHAMPION LAUNCHES THE BIG HIT IN SHEFFIELD

Posted: 28.01.13

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England Squash & Racketball today unveiled The Big Hit, the sports new development brand, and the banner under which all of ESR’s informal participation products and offers will be presented to the sporting public.

Specifically targeting the 18-35 age group and driven through a large number of regional events, new participants to the racket games will be driven to www.thebighit.net

On Monday, two-time World Squash Champion Nick Matthew, fresh from reaching the semi-finals of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York, was back in his home town of Sheffield, playing with members of the public at one of the free ‘Try It’ sessions taking place across the country as part of The Big Hit.

The experiential campaign from ESR, gives local people the chance to try out squash or racketball at a venue near them, with free ‘taster’ sessions called Try It, a new female only fitness programme called ‘Squashercise’ and ‘Play It’ sessions for regular players, creating a social and friendly sporting environment.

Already a mass participation sport, with more than 500,000 regular participants, ESR’s aim is to make squash and racketball one of the top 5 choices for informal sports participation in England and an online survey, with more than 2000 respondents (both existing and non- participants) generated significant insight as to how the two sports might appeal to specific target markets.

• Students
• Women (21 -30)
• Women (with families 30+)
• Young Professional Men (21 to 30)
• Professional Men (settling down with families 30+)
• Male Skilled and Unskilled (21 to 30)

Steve Amos, Head of National Network at ESR commented; “We know that our existing campaigns have made an impact in small concentrated areas but it is clear that we need to build on this to make a significant difference on a wider scale. The packaging and presentation of these products has not always been clear or uniform and our direct customer research indicates clearly there is a demand for better communication with non-participants.”

Key responses from the survey identified reasons why non-participants don’t play as:

• Squash and racketball look interesting but no idea how to get involved
• No idea what the rules are and what equipment to use.

Whilst drivers that would encourage non- participants to start playing include:
• Having someone of their own standard to play.
• If there was a greater social focus.
• If they could try some taster sessions and if they could find out more about court availability.

38% of current non-participants surveyed said that they would be prepared to try squash and 40% said that they would be prepared to try racketball.

“This showed us that there is a need to raise awareness amongst the wider public about how easy it is to play one of these racket sports. Our products and offers need to be clear, simple, easy to find and need to facilitate the introduction to squash and racketball sessions with a social focus thus overcoming the perceived obstacles to taking up our sports.”

Squash and Racketball have long been recognised for their ability to refine fitness levels, 80% of people who play squash and racketball also play another sport (*Trends in your sport pack – Sport England 2012) and ESR will be working hard to raise awareness of The Big Hit among its strategic partners with major public facility leisure operators, over key 200 local authority facilities, Universities and clubs..

Speaking at the Hallamshire Club in Sheffield when launching The Big Hit on Monday, Nick Matthew said; “When the weather stops many sports, Squash really comes in to its own. It is a quick, fun and social indoor game you can play all year round, no exceptions. I have played squash all of my life, but, I have friends who have only just started to learn and they love it for the social side and the health and fitness benefits. You really do only a need a racket and a ball, just get down to a facility and give it a try”

A strand of the BIG HIT TOUR will consist of City Centre or non-facility based promotions, such as utilising redundant retail units for ‘pop-up’ squash Try It venues.. After raising initial awareness, customers will find www.thebighit.net lists targeted sessions which include:

• Big Hit “Try It” Sessions – delivered by Big Hit Activators and Coaches
• Social ‘PLAY IT’ – directing customers into existing sessions in clubs and public facilities
• Court Finder – option to find a facility near them so they can play themselves

But both sports are played predominantly in 40 minute slots within the recreational market, require little time commitment and can be fitted in around busy and varied lifestyles, which also make them very social sports. www.thebighit.net will offer a range of products to appeal specifically to the younger demographic with vertical streams of content, similar to those used by Facebook and Amazon.

With the arrival of tablet devices and smart phones the use of a scroll bar will be a key feature of the Big Hit site, intentionally focusing on gesture control (fingers or hands using touch screen devices) as most members of our target market actively use smart phone and tablet devices to consume web information.

Simplicity of navigation has been a conscious decision since customers must be able to find what they want quickly.